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  • R.T.

Achlys for Poe's Cat

This is done so quickly, for my rendition of a story to be penned only by myself (none others, for no witnesses there were) is under siege by the brain within my skull by liquor—what I wish weren’t true. And it isn’t a tale one must beset for themselves a manner of reluctant approach, for it will not harrow the soul, decapitate your senses, nor shall it remove a sense of life from those withering or dilapidated minds whom may read this; it is a tale that is meant to relieve from me the anguish I have endured far too long. And, hopefully, for those that wrinkle under the black-hole-heart, perchance it is that relief may find you as well.

November was the “when” of this happening; on a colder day than usual, though sunnier than usual too. It was outside, next to my favorite birch of the three that held domain of the yard; beside a bush, grand in color—“beautiful green”—and large enough to hem from view my home to the neighbors that often liked to look in upon my goings. They seemed like nice people, my sepulchral neighbors, but judgement was impossible, for they always lingered so far away and high up behind a shadowy curtain in the depth of that hallway onlooking. One thing of notice they certainly would’ve had, is of the exquisiteness of the landscaping my backyard was plentiful in.

It’s an inextricable kind of serenity that the yard holds, as the grass that I maintained frequently was of a standard that even those fools regarding themselves “artists” would grade of its “flower-competitiveness” a high standard for following. And I feel as though I have touched nearly every blade of green sword upon the lawn in delicate care thereby, examining the natural greatness of each one. My skin is my shield, but even so do I find minor cuts and scrapes from the summer days in rolling around in the morning dew left from the night for me to wash in. But it was November, then, and so the frost was all that stayed, and the water didn’t perch about the tips of the grass when it melted, only subdued to the soil and left the veins drying.

To this lawn, my house wasn’t much to look at, an all-black manor but for its white chimney—which, on occasion, would sputter a scream in the winter months much similar to the cry of a cat—but it was an expensive abode, one that held many treasures: collections of artwork, books of history, any material of scientific interest—though I possess no ability to use them—and all sorts of facets for entertainment. There wasn’t ever enough time, though, for me to be distracted from the yard and its effulgent verdure. I liked being in the grass too often, perhaps with a book, but more likely than not, I’d sit at the concrete edge or just off of it and on the dirt, to stare out at the lawn and the birch trees and the hedge; that huge, massive hedge of thick branches inside and a blockade of leaves beautiful to look at but concealing such an empty space behind (“‘tis a thin wall”).

Now, I think that I was so drawn to the grass because of the birds that flew to my birch trees, perching there and squawking a delectable sound; the smell of the lawn and the overdose synesthesia in the mix of sound and sight there too. Blue-jays, humming-bird wings, and an assortment of smaller birds that I hadn’t identified—quail roamed by the bush as well. For these many reasons, though eclectic, are why I made journey to the pet store for purchase of a parakeet, thinking it was fine enough to remind me in a slumber of deep-breathing and pure reticence, of the whiles watching the birds of my backyard. This found no footing in truth.

I hated that parakeet, though it sang in the clean oxygen with wondrous ejaculation. Inside the house, however, its noise didn’t carry as sweetly: it was alone, without wind, and became like a bark or a howl. How horribly I slept! How sleeping became not sleeping at all! For weeks I tried to hold steady my stillness in my sheets, but to no avail would I be allowed! This bird sang and sang until it lolled into screaming and shouting, yelling at me to do something. I had the purest of hatred for this creature then, though I recalled my intentions and remembered how I should have loved this bird so deeply. Was it not just like the birds from outside? No, couldn’t be. There was a lack of freedom. It had never been free. But should I kill the bird and capture one from out there, I remember pondering in perpetual cycle. Truly, I’m glad that I’ve not tried to capture such a free thing.

Eventually, I had grown much to weary, and rummaged for how I might console my dilapidated psyche. To which response I had brought the parakeet in its cage to the lawn out back, putting it just in front of the hedge and out of sight of the neighbors. I didn’t open the door, but I did unlatch it; and I set a pouch of seeds inside the cage, opened. I did this because I had immediately recognized my folly: so horribly had I malnourished this animal, which glowed brightly under the sun of its plume, that its knees were knobby, shoulders disheveled, and its eyes had disease and despair in them. So awful did I feel, that my heart forgot to beat while I transfixed my countenance upon the slow and climactic inhale and exhale of the tiny creature; and I stumbled back into the darkness of my unlit home, latching the door and looking out from the glass at it as it began to squawk meekly. What was once the song of a bird in a cage within my home, what I perceived to be a natural singing increasingly annoying with time, was now recognized as truly horrid in the scratched vocal of this blessed and pure-hearted creature I now feel remorse for myself for, the natural singing no longer free to be as such despite the removal from a setting entirely unnatural to its voice.

My heart was so pained, you see, that I couldn’t leave this bird to die slowly; and it wasn’t eating of the food, almost as if to say to me, “You’ve done what you have, now live with the agony of seeing me perish slow and cruel.” And so, I left my house to venture to the store, buying for myself an air-rifle, loaded with pellets meant to exterminate squirrels or varmints alike. The singer had sung me into cruelty, and that voice consigned itself to be shot.

It was hard to step outside the latched door and to meander, not breaking eye-contact with the emaciated bird, closing in toward the cage. Above, I could see the neighbors looking out from their window, sepulchral faces that seemed to intimate at their soon coming death—they weren’t sickly, but visibly old—wizened; like they were looking back from the future at me. I crept out of view of their piercing faces, approaching the hedge next to the parakeet and disappearing from them.

The bird didn’t squeal, squawk, or chirp; it just watched and breathed heavily, the open bag of seeds dried to dust or frozen over, and this in disregard, even, of the blaring sun upon them. The bird, surprisingly, had not perished in the chill of the hours that I had left it to. I expected that it might’ve, and so then I’d be free of having to remove this bleakness from my presence personally—how wretched my luck is. Unsurprisingly, the deathly beast was too frail from abuse to have flown or left the cage; why I opened it, I wasn’t sure—perhaps I thought I might feel better if—of its own volition—it flew away and would die or live elsewhere, either outcome left to my pleased ignorance. But no, this was not to be.

I took aim with the gun and I shot the bird close, the muzzle rested against her chest. When the pellet went through, the bird slumped against the seeds, dead, a trickle of blood already freezing against the yellow feathers. I won’t be ashamed to now admit that I cried, but I certainly did.

When I returned to my house, this crying ceased, and I instead listened to the quietude of my soul: it reverberated against the quietude of the house, like an echo in a basement tomb—forever since, have I been haunted, and I know this, for it is not impulse. Though, perhaps “haunted” suits me not, for I do not find myself afraid of what I’ve been feeling, but I do have from horror within me that might be itself haunted in a different tense. Though, what stands out to me now, the retrospective nature of this peculiar recount brining back some form of sagacious control, is that I’m sorrowed or in despair. I’m sorrowed for not having the chance to remove from this reality and return to before, when the purchase of this bird was made, and stop myself from creating such a horrid mistake; and I’m in despair because I never had the chance to name this bird appropriately. I wonder constantly what might’ve this bird been named.

A Note:

It is winter, a year after this occurrence, and I think I must note to myself—which I shall let you, reader, know too—a rather difficult to parse revelation: my house is unbearable for always now, and so I shall move in the coming days after Christmas, upon the new year; this gloomy place is, this winter, truly Death and the guide, the one who shows where to go for those that’ve been harvested.